The Gender Struggle in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams

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After two world wars, the balance of power between the genders in America had completely shifted. Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire is a harsh, yet powerful play that exposes the reality of the gender struggle. Williams illustrates society’s changing attitudes towards masculinity and femininity through his eloquent use of dramatic devices such as characterization, dialogue, setting, symbolism, and foreshadowing.

Stanley, the protagonist, is a symbol for society’s view of the stereotypical male. He is muscular, forceful, and dominant. Stanley’s domination becomes so overwhelming that he demands absolute control. This view of the male as a large animal is revealed in the opening of the play where Stanley is described as “bestial.” His power and control throughout the play are foreshadowed in the opening stage directions.

[…She cries out in protest…Her husband and his companion have

already started back around the corner.]

Stanley does not take notice of his wife’s concern, but instead continues on his original course, asserting his own destiny, without any thought to the effect it may have on those around him. This taking blood at any cost to those around him is foreshadowed in scene one, with the packet of met which he forces upon his wife. It is through actions such as these that Stanley asserts power, symbolic of the male dominance throughout patriarchal society. He also gains a s...

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...iking play, Tennessee Williams poses a question to society, as to whether or not these representations are accurate.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 1-8.

Londre, Felicia Hardison. "A Streetcar Running Fifty Years." The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams. Ed. Matthew C. Roudane. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. 45-66.

Nelson, Benjamin. Tennessee Williams: The Man and His Work. New York: Ivan Obolensky, 1961.

Williams, Tennessee. "Tennessee Williams Interviews Himself." Where I Live: Selected Essays by Tennessee Williams. Ed. Christine Day and Bob Woods. New York: New Directions, 1978. 88-92.
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